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20 Great Things to do in Swansboro, North Carolina

Published by Christina Riley. Last Updated on January 14, 2024.

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Swansboro, North Carolina, is an adorable historic small town in Onslow County, located along the Intracoastal Waterway and White Oak River. It’s just a short distance between Jacksonville and the Bogue Banks (Emerald Isle and Atlantic Beach), but all the fun things to do in Swansboro will help you forget about its neighbors.

Dubbed the “Friendly City by the Sea,” Swansboro has a small but mighty downtown. With more than 40 shops and restaurants and plenty of outdoor activities, you’ll find there is no better time to visit than now.

Embark on a sunset cruise, chow down on fresh and delicious seafood, and shop until you drop; Swansboro, North Carolina, is a charming town with a lot to offer!

In this article, we will detail:

  • Seasonal Events in Swansboro
  • Things to do in Swansboro (Including Shopping and History)
  • Outdoor Things to Do in Swansboro
  • Restaurants in Swansboro
  • Where To Stay
  • Nearby Places!

Whether you’re a new resident, a frequent visitor, or a local, we’re leaving no detail behind. If you live in the Swansboro area and are wondering, “What are the best things to do near me?” we think this NC travel guide will help you out!

Read More: Eastern North Carolina (and 100+ Awesome Places to Visit)

Seasonal Events

  • June: During the second weekend of June, Swansboro holds its “Arts By The Sea” annual festival. The event attracts art lovers from across the state for a juried exhibition of photography, home decor, paintings, jewelry, and pottery.
  • July: What better way to celebrate the Fourth of July than along the waterfront? Swansboro bustles with families and friends for live music and a fantastic display of fireworks.
  • October: Every October, Swansboro celebrates the mullet. No, not the business in the front/party in the back kind of mullet… The mullet fish!
  • In October, so many mullets swim up and down the North Carolina coast that Swansboro decided to turn it into a festival. Enjoy live music, vendors, events, and, of course, some delicious mullet!
  • Christmas: Sure, you’ve been to a Christmas parade, but have you been to a Christmas Flotilla? The Friday after Thanksgiving, Swansboro’s boats parade out along the water, framed by lights and festive cheer.

Read More: Christmas in North Carolina (the Best Holiday Events)

Year-Round Things to Do in Swansboro NC

Clyde Phillips Seafood Market

Address: 104 E Corbett Ave, Swansboro, NC

Things to Do in Swansboro NC

Clyde Phillips Seafood Market has been selling seafood to locals since 1954, so you know they offer only the best. Find fresh flounder, shrimp, crabs, clams, and more to take back home for a fantastic meal!

Candy Edventure

Address: 101 W Church St #3, Swansboro, NC

Colorful display of candies at Candy Edventure in Swansboro, North Carolina.

What better way to hop back in time than with candy? At Candy Edventure, you’ll do just that.

The walls are filled with sweets from yesteryear, as well as new and exciting confections to try. The prices are reasonable, and we guarantee you’ll find something here that makes you go, “Ah! Remember these?”

Read More: 50 of the Best Day Trips from Raleigh

Poor Man’s Hole

Address: 131 Front St, Swansboro, NC

a display of endless nautical-themed souvenirs and antiques at Poor Man's Hole

One of our favorite Swansboro NC things to do is to wander the aisles of Poor Man’s Hole. This nautically-themed little shop is filled with antiques, doodads, and vintage memorabilia.

Find fun items from pirates to ship lamps, and say hello to the owner, Joe! 

More Shopping in Swansboro

For such a small town, Swansboro is packed with great shops! Whether you’re looking for gifts at The Mercantile (137 Front St) or Through the Looking Glass (101 W Church St), there are plenty of places to browse (and buy!) on Front Street.

Outdoor Things to Do in Swansboro

Bicentennial Park

Address: 104 E Corbett Ave, Swansboro, NC

Sunset over the waterfront in Swansboro, North Carolina, with pink and golden hues reflecting on the calm waters

Located next to NC-24 is Bicentennial Park, an absolute gem. This large green space is right along the water, equipped with a boardwalk from downtown.

There are plenty of swing benches with amazing views, especially if you’re watching the sunrise. You will often see anglers along the boardwalk, as it is a great place to fish.

Statue of Otway Burns, a prominent figure in Swansboro's history, against a scenic backdrop

At the center of the park, there’s a statue honoring Otway Burns, a War of 1812 privateer (legal pirate) turned North Carolina Senator.

Two North Carolina towns, Burnsville in Yancey County and Otway in Carteret County, are named for this Swansboro native.

Read More: 13 Amazing Restaurants in Burnsville (Best of the Best!)

Explore the Area by Boat

Boating enthusiasts enjoying a day on the water in Swansboro

If you are looking for an outfitter in Swansboro, Pogie’s (114 E Corbett Ave) is your connection! They have plenty of boats for rent and host a variety of guided and unguided tours.

They have reasonable prices and a knowledgeable team. Whether you choose to kayak, SUP, fish, or cruise, Pogie’s is the place for you!

Sunset Cruise with Lady Swan Boat Tours

The 'Lady Swan,' a picturesque boat docked in Swansboro, NC

Is there anything like watching the sunset over the water? Lady Swan Boat Tours offers the opportunity to climb aboard their 40′ vessel and enjoy a lovely evening on the water.

These tours leave from downtown Swansboro.

Walking History Tour

a historic family photo from a local family in Swansboro

Swansboro is a historic town that has seen quite a bit of change over the decades. Fortunately, there are detailed records of what life used to be like in this town. Take a historic walking tour with Ann, a lifelong Swansboroian whose family has resided in Swansboro for generations.

She’ll regale you with photos and stories that will warm your heart and help you understand this coastal town better.

Shelling on Bear Island with Marsh Cruises

A boat docked near Bear Island

Head out to Bear Island, which is part of Hammocks Beach State Park and one of the best beaches for shelling. While on the island (which you’ll probably have all to yourself), you can search for shells, sand dollars, and shark teeth!

Our experience with Marsh Cruises was one of the best we’ve ever had on a boat. Captain Darryl will show you a side of Swansboro that you never knew existed!

After we were done shelling at Bear Island, Captain Darryl took us around the Intracoastal waterway to a sandbar in the middle of the water.

a long sandbar on a sunny day in North Carolina

The tide was just low enough that we could walk out on the sandbar and search for whelk. We had so much fun that Charlotte ran herself tired!

Read More: 100+ Unique Things to Do In North Carolina (Your NC Bucket List)

Hammocks Beach State Park

Address: 1572 State Rd 1511, Swansboro, NC

walking in front of the waves and white sand of Hammocks Beach State Park

Bear Island is part of Hammocks Beach State Park, a beautiful piece of land and one of the top beaches near Swansboro NC. From the Visitor Center, you can take the State Park‘s passenger ferry or launch your own/rented kayak to reach Bear Island.

There are several water trails here, including Bear Inlet Trail, a 6-mile one-way paddle trail.

A view of the coastal forests from the water at Hammocks Beach State Park

In addition to the water trails, there are several Coastal forest trails at Hammocks Beach State Park. As this park continues to develop and expand, more trails and activities are being added, and we are excited to see the progress!

Read More: 50+ Easy Day Trips from Fayetteville (Great Getaways!)

Have a Drink at Bake Bottle Brew

Address: 147 Front St, Swansboro, NC

a glass of Rose from Bake Bottle Brew

Bake Bottle and Brew was our first stop in Swansboro several years ago, and I can remember exactly why. It was Mother’s Day weekend, and all I wanted was a glass of wine overlooking the water–and Bake Bottle and Brew delivered! 

As the name suggests, they have everything needed for beer, wine, and coffee aficionados, with a gorgeous waterfront back deck.

Where to Eat in Swansboro

With more than 40 shops and restaurants, there are plenty of delicious places to eat in Swansboro NC. For breakfast, head to Yana’s (119 Front St) for an amazing fruit fritter! You won’t be disappointed.

a big platter of seafood boil including crabs, corn, shrimp, oyster, and potatoes

After you’ve worked up an appetite out on the water, try lunch at The Boro (109 Front St) or a seafood boil at Boro Low Country Kitchen (101 Moore St).

an elegant plate of bacon wrapped scallops and lobster cream risotto

Dinner reservations must be made for a table overlooking the water at Saltwater Grill (99 W Church St). Their signature dish, Angels on Horseback, features bacon-wrapped scallops and shrimp over crab meat with a lobster cream risotto.

With so much seafood goodness on one plate, you won’t regret dining here!

Read More: 20 Amazing Restaurants in Jacksonville, NC and Onslow County

Where to Stay

There are some cool and unique places to stay in Swansboro. A Hampton Inn & Suites sits off NC-24 and is just a short drive from downtown.

If you’d like something closer, we were hosted by Visit Swansboro at Downtown Swanny, a refurbished former icehouse located above Boro Low Country Boil. Hook, Wine, and Sinker is another option along the water and is bookable via VRBO.

Visit Swansboro has listed a few more hotels and inns here, including accommodations along the waterfront and nearby.

Places Nearby

While it’s true that you can continue on NC-24 into Carteret County, for this section, we’re going to focus on Swansboro’s Onslow County neighbors.


Jacksonville is the hub of Onslow County and is well-known for its military presence at Camp Lejeune. Visit Lejeune Memorial Gardens, go shopping at Saigon Sams, and check out Sturgeon City’s educational programs.

Mike’s Farm

Address: 1600 Haw Branch Rd, Beulaville, NC

a plate of home cookin' soul food, including fried chicken, biscuits, mac and cheese, and potatoes

Mike’s Farm puts on dinner shows and events and has some of the best country cookin’ we’ve ever had! Spend a day at the farm and hang out with the goats, chickens, peacocks, and all the other animals before heading inside for a family-style meal.

While waiting for your table, spend some time browsing their country store and checking out the bakery. If you happen to find a pastry that tickles your fancy, enjoy it on the front porch rocking chair with the cool North Carolina breeze in your face.

Huffman Vineyards

Address: 221 Haw Branch Rd, Richlands, NC

Huffman Vineyards is also an excellent place to enjoy the beautiful countryside of Onslow County. The family-owned and operated vineyard features a wide array of wines suitable for all palates.

our daughter feeding a group of chickens

From sweet Eastern North Carolina wines to a dry muscadine, this family-friendly winery is in a beautiful location. They even have chickens that the kids can feed while you enjoy a glass of wine.

Ready to Enjoy These Things to Do in Swansboro and Beyond?

Swansboro is a charming small town with a lot of unique and fun activities. Whether you are spending time on the water, shelling on Bear Island, or eating fresh and delicious seafood, there are limitless options for what to do in Swansboro NC!

This town makes for a truly wonderful NC vacation.

Have you ever visited this lovely spot in Onslow County? If so, what are your favorite things to do in Swansboro? If not, which of these fun activities will you be doing first?

Don’t forget to share your Swansboro adventures in our North Carolina Travel Facebook Group!

More Things to Do in Swansboro (and Onslow County)

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